Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 14, 2018)
Although 1987’s The Gate went with a “kid-friendly” “PG-13” rating, 1992’s Gate II opted to pursue a more horror-oriented “R”. In the original, teenaged Terry Chandler (Louis Tripp) and his friends brought forth tiny wish-fulfilling demons through a hole in a backyard, and the sequel follows a similar path.
Now a few years older, Terry revisits the site where the prior events occurred. His family suffers from various maladies connected to his mother’s death and his dad’s alcoholism.
Saddled with these burdens, Terry hopes that he can bring back the minions and use them to get his life back onto a more positive path. This doesn’t go as planned.
If I ever saw the first Gate, I forgot about it years ago. With a US gross of about $13 million, it didn’t become a real hit, but it did decently for a cheap horror flick circa 1987, so it’s possible I viewed it on video and simply maintain no memory of it.
Normally I wouldn’t want to see a sequel if I lacked familiarity with the original, but in this case, I really doubted it would matter. While Gate II clearly reflects on events from the first film, it doesn’t seem to be a story that requires understanding of its predecessor to succeed – it’s not some complex running narrative that loses coherence as a standalone.
Though Gate II appears to presume some knowledge of the original, as it boasts next to zero setup before Terry heads back to lure the demons. He throws out a few lines of exposition and then whammo - he’s at the old location!
This won’t be an issue for viewers of the first film, and given the story’s lack of real plot emphasis, it’s not a problem for those of us new to the series. Nonetheless, Gate II could use a little more of an intro, as it starts in an awfully abrupt manner.
Matters don’t really change after that, as Gate II never bothers to muster much of a story. It acts as a series of horror-related incidents without much in terms of development or narrative thrust.
While I don’t expect Dickens-level storytelling from a cheap horror flick, I think Gate II suffers due to its absence of character and plot movement. It feels sloppy and shoddy, as it doesn’t manage to involve us in the situations well.
That’s a shame, as Gate II comes with potential positives. The “wish fulfillment” side of the tale gives us a bit of fun, and it boasts a smattering of clever moments.
Given the movie’s age and budget, it also brings us some good effects – mainly via the main minion. That creature never feels “real”, but it meshes with the live-action surprisingly well and come across better than anticipated.
Larger-scale effects seen later in the film seem less convincing, though, and the generally scattered nature of the story means these elements don’t make much impact. Gate II suffers from a predictable feel that it can’t overcome.
As far as cheap horror sequels go, Gate II could be worse – even with its flaws, it still creates a surprisingly watchable experience. Still, it suffers from too many problems to be more than a minor pleasure at best.
Footnote: a small revelation appears after the end credits.